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Is Fasting an Effective Weight Loss Strategy?

Fasting, otherwise known as not eating food for specified time periods, is a weight loss strategy you may have thought about trying. While cutting calories often results in weight loss, fasting does come with some potential disadvantages -- which may make you wonder if it’s really a good idea.

Effects on Weight

Research shows that fasting promotes weight and fat loss, which is beneficial if you’re overweight or obese. A 2014 review published in the International Journal of Health Sciences reports that intermittent fasting, or alternating between fasting and non-fasting, aids in weight loss. A 2015 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that intermittent fasting indeed facilitates weight loss. A third 2015 review confirms that intermittent fasting leads to weight and fat loss. The reason fasting often helps shed pounds is simply because it causes you to eat fewer calories throughout the day.

Disease Risk Considerations

In addition to weight loss, fasting may provide you with several other health benefits. For example, a 2015 review in Nutrition Reviews points out that fasting can lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides. The 2015 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fasting may lower your risk for coronary artery disease and diabetes. Yet a third 2015 review in Cellular Metabolism found that periodic fasting reduces blood pressure, asthma, and arthritis -- and has the potential to delay aging.

Potential Risks

While intermittent fasting can provide some health benefits and aid in weight and fat loss, use caution when following very low-calorie or fasting diets. Always get your doctor’s permission before skipping meals, fasting for a whole day, or eating fewer than 1,000 calories per day -- as this type of dieting should be monitored by a healthcare provider. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, side effects of eating very few calories include constipation, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and even gallstones. You may also experience headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, frequent urination, and bad breath when fasting-- and fasting for long periods of time puts you at risk for nutrient deficiencies.

Is Fasting Right for Me?

Be sure to check with your doctor or dietitian if you plan to eat fewer than 1,000 calories daily for an extended period of time. Fasting by skipping some meals or snacks can help you eat fewer calories, aid in weight loss, and lower disease risks if you’re overweight or obese. However, fasting can cause negative side effects as well, and you don’t have to fast to shed pounds and reduce disease risks. Simply lowering your current intake by 500 to 750 calories daily will also do the trick.

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